I totally sympathise with you. We got Tilly, a tabby torti, from the cat protection society 18 months ago when she was 2 years old. We were not previous pet owners and let the staff know that we were looking for a chilled out, indoor only cat. I suppose that they didn't know much about Tilly as she was left at the shelter only 2 months prior in a box.
On the first day we brought her home, a friend commented that she was a big cat. After a month her personality changed. She would meow constantly from during the night. We thought she might be cold, so we gave her blankets, we tried putting a fan outside the bedroom door to discourage her from meowing there, she got a blow wave. We identified that she was hungry, so we purchased an automatic pet feeder which fed her 2x daily and then we would give her a topup before going to bed. Her total daily feed was 1 cup as per the vet's instructions. She has always been on indoor dry food.
Not wanting to be irresponsible about her increasing weight, we purchased a cat harness to take her walking. She just rolled on her side and wouldn't move. Seriously, if I tried to pull on the leash, she would drag on the grass (not far!) rather than get up on her feet, even with treats! I gave up when I realised that getting her to exercise was a wasted effort.
After 1 year, her automatic feeder broke. We replaced it with a foraging feeder (ball filled that dispenses feed as the cat pushes it around the room). This was hopeless, if the opening was too small, she would give up. I had to wake up to push the feeder so that she could eat and stop meowing. If the opening was at the next bigger opening, all the food fell onto the floor. And she wouldn't eat it all so we would be stepping on cat food. Gross!
My partner ended up purchasing a high tech feeder from the US which is apparently raccoon proof (good to know in case any raccoons make their way into our apartment in Sydney), which can dispense multiple feeds per day. She still meows even when there is food in the tray.
At her annual vet checkup a month ago, Tilly was 6.6kg or 150% of her target weight. The vet also said that tortoise shell cats can be very talkative. She has no other health concerns. Tilly isn't interested in playing with any of her toys, she will randomly freak out and run around the apartment, she seems anxious for company but will then be standoffish bordering on aggressive when I pet her. She tenses up when I touch her back. We also have a housemate who doesn't like cats which is most definitely not helping the situation.
I genuinely worry that our apartment is not the best environment for our cat. I'm woken up almost every morning by Tilly's constant meowing and headbutting against the bedroom door. We tried leaving the door open, but she started tearing the sheets and wouldn't settle down. Our housemate is a doctor and she gets really upset if Tilly's meowing wakes her before a hospital shift (totally understandable). We've even had neighbours check in to make sure that she's not being abused because her constant meowing is raising concerns.
I've seen on other forums, whenever a pet owner mentions that the relationship between the pet and owner is strained, the online community can be quick to judge the owner for not caring enough or considering the cat's wellbeing. I sincerely wonder whether we should return the cat to the shelter.
My partner appears to have a better relationship with Tilly. This may be because he has the superpower to sleep with earbuds. I've tried a few types of earbuds, they keep falling out and I find them uncomfortable. I think that he would consider us failures if we had to take Tilly back to the shelter. We haven't had an open discussion about what to do.
Please share your thoughts and advise what you would do if you were in this situation. Would you find a better home for your cat or stick it out to prove that you are responsible?